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France: British holidaymakers rush to return home after UK quarantine move

British holidaymakers in France have been rushing to return home to avoid having to self-isolate for..

British holidaymakers in France have been rushing to return home to avoid having to self-isolate for a fortnight, following the UK’s decision to reimpose quarantine restrictions on the country amid a recent spike in coronavirus infections.

The government announced late on Thursday that people travelling to the UK from France, the Netherlands and Malta would be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival from Saturday morning. The measures will apply to the whole of the UK and come into effect from 4 a.m. BST (0500 CEST).

The French government has indicated that it will respond in kind, without giving details.

The UK’s move is causing havoc for thousands of holidaymakers and has been greeted with dismay by the travel and tourism industries, struggling to keep a summer season alive after being crippled by the spring lockdown. The British government says travellers were warned of the risks of going abroad.

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the country needed to “keep infection rates down” after France, the Netherlands and Malta all recorded a surge of coronavirus cases in recent days.

Monaco and the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Turks and Caicos have also been added to the quarantine list.

Travellers abruptly change plans

France is the second-most popular holiday destination for British tourists after Spain. Around half a million Britons are thought to be in the country.

In the French ports of Dunkirk and Calais — whose mayor called the UK quarantine move an “aggression” — many British travelers were lining up in their cars to take the ferries crossing the Channel to Britain.

For those trying to beat the quarantine deadline, travel possibilities are limited. Air France, Eurostar and Eurotunnel saw an immediate rise in reservations and services quickly became fully booked. Travel operators are warning people not to try to return to the UK unless they have reservations.

“I was supposed to come back tomorrow evening but then after the announcement yesterday, I decided to move it to today and yeah, it cost me £105 (€116) to change my ticket, and my kids tickets,” said Firas Kilin, as he prepared to board a train to London from Paris.

Speaking on Thursday night, Shapps said the isolation measures would be “mandatory” to keep outbreaks under control, but assured that people would not need to race home from their summer breaks.

He said: “We’re saying to people you can stay and finish your holiday, but you have to be aware you will have to quarantine after that.”

Rising COVID-19 cases in France

There have been growing concerns about the number of COVID-19 cases in France, which is the second-most popular holiday destination for UK tourists after Spain. Infections have risen by 66% in the past week.

However, the rise in the number of cases varies around the country. Infection levels are currently highest in Paris and surrounding areas as well as on the south coast. Paris and the Marseille area were declared “at-risk zones” on Friday because of a spike in new cases.

Yet many areas frequented by British tourists are relatively unscathed, and questions have been raised as to why the UK could not have introduced alternative measures to quarantine, such as testing returning holidaymakers for coronavirus.

On Thursday, the country added 2,524 new coronavirus cases to the national tally in 24 hours — the highest daily increase since May when lockdown measures were lifted.

From 3-9 August, it recorded a weekly rate of 15 cases per 100,000, with the Netherlands and Malta reporting rates of 19 and 35 respectively.

France initially recorded lower cases when considering a seven-day average per 100,000 than the UK, but saw a peak in the last week meaning its total crept above Britain’s.

The continental European country’s increase was still much lower than that of Spain or Belgium — which were both added to the UK’s quarantine list in July.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the decision at the time, telling local broadcaster Telecinco that he thought the measures were “inappropriate” and didn’t fit with Spain’s current epidemiological situation.

He argued that places heavily dependent on British tourists, like the Balearics and the Canary Islands, as well as Valencia and Andalusia, were safe destinations as most of the new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the north-eastern regions of Catalonia and Aragon.

French health authorities said at the end of July: “We have cancelled much of the progress that wed achieved in the first weeks of lockdown-easing.”

It also warned that French citizens appeared to be letting their guard down during their summer vacations and that those who test positive are not self-isolating enough.

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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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